Scaling Safely: Defending Your Jungle Through Pathing
Sat 21st Nov 2020 - 1:44pm
With the rise of fast clearing, dueling junglers like Graves, Hecarim, and Nidalee, slower clearers and weak early game junglers often feel suboptimal, as though you're at an inherent disadvantage while playing them unless you by some miracle have 3 winning lanes. The intent of this guide is to mitigate the early game disadvantage one intrinsically experiences in League of Legends by picking these sort of junglers.
This guide will be segmented into several sections; ranging from understanding your match-up, your laners' match-ups, and perspectives on pathing.
Knowing Your Enemy
It's very easy to fall into the pitfall of employing the same, cookie-cutter pathing in each game; typically a full clear or a 4 camp into crab on most junglers. However, while having a "standard path" is useful in most cases, nearly nothing in League is always applicable in isolation; everything is dependent on the enemy that you'll be facing. I want to begin by throwing some ideas out there, in order to analyse and understand your jungle match-up to its fullest.
Nidalee, Lee Sin, and Kindred are all somewhat similar to the degree that they are more than capable of jumping over walls in the early game in order to invade your jungle. While champions like Graves or Shaco also have this ability, it's not really in the spirit of their champion to show up and invade you extremely early unlike these champions. These are the sort of champions where it's ideal to find out where they are starting, in order to figure out their angle of attack.
Furthermore, I would try to avoid spending too much time on one camp against these guys; in particular, red side Gromp on the first clear can be a death trap for many junglers facing off against these two, unless you have the ability to duel them yourself. Try to limit the amount of time you spend on one side, a moving target is much harder to hit for these guys
While each of these junglers have varying capabilities of dueling, they're all more than able to invade an unwitting jungler, and steal abundant resources from their target. Most of these champs would prefer to avoid confrontation, and just take your camps. The absolute best way to beat these sorts of champions will be covered in-depth later in the guide, but to spill it early: path towards your pushing lanes. Generally, this is a great plan on the first clear for nearly any jungler (unless you're looking for an early cheese gank), but many of these champions need to commit to kill you, or to take your camp; allowing ample time for your team to rotate and punish the aggressing jungler.
If none of your lanes win naturally, you should do your best to path opposite of the enemy jungler; if he's starting red, start your blue. The reasoning for this, is since none of your lanes get priority, the laner who is leashing for the enemy jungler is likely to lose push on the first wave, giving you a degree of temporary breathing room.
This is the last overarching "champion class" we will cover, but generally champions like these are looking to kill: kill you, kill your laners, snowball and win. How do you defend your jungler against these guys? Well, if you don't have pushing lanes, you can't. The best way to avoid these guys is to track where they're going, and stay away from them. They will kill you so fast early, it's very likely that even if your lanes are pushing, your teammates will not be capable of collapsing in time until you are dead, and your camps are gone, with these guys escaping.
The best plan for these guys, is to look for vision in the early game. Luckily, many of these sorts of champions have a very bad level 1, allowing you to set up vision and begin tracking them. If you suspect the enemy jungler is coming into your jungle through your wall of well-placed wards, ping your laners in advanced, and try to keep watch of the camp being stolen; moving your laners in advance will give you the numbers you need to beat these guys. Furthermore, time is on your side. Many of these junglers fall off in the mid to late game without a substantial lead, let a few camps go if you need to, you'll likely be stronger in the later game anyway.
Knowing Your Allies
There's literally no way around it: you absolutely need to adjust your pathing depending on the sorts of laners you have.
Scuttle Crab has massive implications on the trajectory of the game, and the jungler who is capable of snatching both of them is capable of stonewalling the enemy jungler out of the game, alongside the crabs naturally providing some natural defense to your laners. What sorts of things should we be looking to to path towards therefore?
Generally, you should simply path towards lanes that are naturally winning in the 1v1, but unless you have significant knowledge of League of Legends (we're talking nearly thousands of games, unless you're some sort of learned game scholar), there are a few things to look for in a more general sense.
Wave clear, such as most control mages, or ADCs that are capable of hitting the entire wave at once, like Jhin, Ashe, or Caitlyn. These sorts of champions are capable of pushing their wave quickly, and therefore expediting the amount of time it takes for them to rotate and help you, if you are in need of assistance as a jungler
Utility, such as Orianna, or tanky champions that provide crowd control. These champions can help soak damage in early game skirmishes, or deter invades by the amount of CC they provide. Furthermore, CC weakens the scuttlecrab, so having these guys around and ready to help is useful even just for clearing the crab fast, opening up the potential of securing the second one and crushing the enemy jungler in the early game
Damage, there's no way around it; early game damage wins fights. Champions like Camille, Jhin, or LeBlanc are capable of rotating and simply killing your enemy, not much else to it. Identify which champions on your team would prefer to fight early, and just path towards them.
It's easy to find reasons to path towards a specific lane, but now let's try to identify what sorts of things we should path away from.
While a lot of the champions you would prefer to path away from are the stereotypical "scaling champions" before going forward, I want to set a disclaimer: everything matters game to game. If you are capable of winning the 2v2 between the enemy laner and the enemy jungler, there are definitely situations where you should be around your scaling carry's lane in order to offer them support, and counter the enemy jungler's ganks. Let's figure out why it's probably not ideal to path towards these guys
Prefers freezing, as opposed to waveclearing; think a champion like Cassiopeia, while she's capable of hardshoving the wave, the champion simply functions better by putting the wave near her own tower, as her short range causes her to be punished by pushing. This lack of priority makes invading (properly) nearly impossible, since the enemy laners will find it easy to collapse on you, while your laners are stuck holding their lane.
Low damage, this is about as sensible as it comes: they just don't deal the amount of damage necessary to win fights. Think about champions like Sona, in particular when the enemy support is something like Leona, or Pantheon; Sona just isn't capable of winning those sorts of fights by design, so avoid fighting around her.
Scales with levels, on a more stranger note, consider this for champions like Kayle and the like: the primary advantage you're getting out of winning a fight (and kills) is the gold you get from killing enemy champions, and denying enemies exp and gold themselves. Everything comes at a sacrifice; more than likely, it's waves of minions, the primary way for laners to get experience. It's simply not economic for a character like Kayle or Kassadin to rotate away from a wave in order to fight unless it's over a big objective, like Scuttle Crab or Dragon. Don't push these sorts of champions; you have a ticking time bomb on your team, just don't blow it up too early.
Knowing Your Jungle
We are finally done talking about the all-important hypotheticals, and we can finally begin talking about actual, core ideas about the game to keep in mind while playing.
For several seasons now, the jungle is fundamentally based around leveling your camps; camps gain levels as you clear them, and camps will get stronger and yield more gold as they level up. The developing of camps is a big reason why junglers who simply spam ganks in the early game will rapidly fall behind, not only because they're not farming their jungle, but their jungler is getting outscaled by the opponent who is actively developing his camps.
There are four camps which are pretty much necessary to be developed by nearly every single jungler;
While the rate of development may vary camp from camp (i.e.: Lee sin or Trundle may not be able to clear Raptors on their first clear, so they'll take them later), these four camps are pretty much actively leveled by each jungler for one very good reason: they're geographically convenient. While Gromp is somewhat convenient, being next to Blue buff, clearing it is troublesome for AD champions due to his high armor value, in addition to its inability to being kited, and generally high damage. These four core camps comprise most fundamental clears, although "3 camps" into a gank is certainly viable for junglers like Jarvan IV, Elise, or Lee sin amongst others.
That leaves the odd ones out;
While full clearing the jungle is pretty typical in the current meta, it should be recognised that during the times where Lee Sin, Elise, and the like were in the meta, these camps are fundamentally expendable, at least to an extent. These camps generally provide more gold and experience than the others, but their geographic inconvenience makes them more useful to take if you're either hovering a lane in preparation of a speculated countergank, or as a conclusion to your path before recalling. It's sensible to clear Gromp when it's up, but it's not necessary, and you should consider ditching it on your first clear if you think your enemy will invade you and aim to kill you on the camp.
Furthermore; consider this: which of these two would the enemy jungler prefer to take? If the enemy is a strong magic damage champion, like Elise or Nidalee, they'd likely target you on Gromp, especially if you're playing a physical, AoE based jungler, like Hecarim. Taking Gromp is much easier for Elise or Nidalee than it is for Hecarim, causing you to expend precious time clearing the camp. In contrast, a champion like Graves or Lee sin may favor trying to kill you while you're clearing your Krugs; the terrain is comfortable for him to navigate and he's capable of dropping it on you quickly, while escaping afterwards due to his high mobility.
Each of these are extremely basic; there's an infinite amount of nuance to League of Legends, which is what makes it so attractive to play for people. However, routinely low elo followers of mine come to me, either as laners flaming their jungler, or as a jungler flaming their laners, when the true culprit is either a failure to execute on a lane match-up, or basic pathing issues like running towards a deathtrap of a losing top side in a disadvantageous jungle match-up. These basic mistakes get punished extremely quickly as one ranks up, so it's important to recognise them early, and get a good sense of how to navigate the jungle in the early game in order to avoid falling behind in the early game in an unfavorable match-up.